After doing some research, video-watching, and review-reading, the experiment eventually came down to these varieties: Rutgers, Better Boy Hybrid, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Big Rainbow, and Mortgage Lifter, all of which were from Ferry Morse Seed Company. I planted other varieties and vegetables, too, but for now we'll concentrate on these.
I have nothing but the highest praise for these seeds and will be purchasing from Ferry Morse from now on! The germination time and succession rates were the best I've experienced bar-none. Every single one of my peat pods had two or three strong tomato sprouts within a relatively short span of time, which is quite impressive.
It wasn't long before I thinned them out (you can see some of the sorry siblings whose lives were taken for the good of their brethren below) and put them in cups under some lighting. Even if you don't have fancy lighting, just a basic lamp like this *does* help. This one came out of one of our sheds. I'm pretty sure it hadn't been used in the eight years since I've been here.
You, uh... you can't see it, but they are mostly arranged by how each plant was named: presidents, founding fathers, constellations, fictional characters, friends, and inventors! Benjamin & Franklin were 2 of my favorites! Respect your plants.
By the time they were ready for transplanting, I had 140 tomato plants. I gave about 80 away to other people, planted in my own gardens, and put some in my front yard for the neighbors to take. It was a success, as they took all of my extras. And now they have yummy tomatoes, as well. I love that! Sharing is caring, folks!
Transplanting was as it always is minus the addition of red plastic mulch, which is said to possibly produce higher yields. It's still a bit controversial, but I thought... why not give it a shot?
Very soon after outdoor transplantation, still early.
I'd say it did produce more than my usual amount. As for specific numbers, I just didn't pay that close of attention. The tomato supply was aplenty this year... well, that is, before the groundhog got in.
I lost half of my crop to that groundhog over the course of three days. THREE DAYS! Annihilator! But I suppose groundhogs have to eat too, and there was plenty to share!
And then, the first harvest!
My favorites from best to worst: Better Boy (delicious, traditional, split resistant, weighty), Big Rainbow (sweet, split resistant, weighty), Rutgers, Black Krim (meaty, interesting, good balance of sweetness), Cherokee Purple, and lastly was the Mortgage Lifter. They all have their own definite and distinctive tastes; some you'd be more partial to than others. Of course, these are all tomatoes used for different purposes--some great for sandwiches, some for salads, others for sauces and chutneys.
I was most impressed with the Big Rainbow fruit. The last one I've pulled from my garden looked like a peach upon opening, and it tastes nearly like one, as well! It's the kind of tomato you can bite into and not have any sort of sour reaction. My early Big Rainbows were quite small and always purely yellow or orange, but they tasted like candies fresh off of the vine.
I will likely grow Big Rainbow, Black Krim, and Better Boys next year, but I will move on from the others to experiment with new varieties next year.
Bonus: Monsieur Mustachio Tomatooooe and his family (Ms. Tomatooooe, Peregrine, and Snippet, respectively) made an appearance!